Summer Reading Review 2021

This summer I really held myself accountable to my summer reading lists (published here). I kept a printout of the covers above my desk for reference and checked off each as I completed it.

So, now for the overall reviews and recommendations from those I had chosen for the summer:

The Plot – 4.5 stars
Too Good to be True – 4.5 stars
Empire of Pain – 4.5 stars
Running with Sherman – 4.5 stars
The Last Thing He Told Me – 4.5 stars
My Brilliant Life – 4 stars
The Push – 4 stars
Greenlights – 3.5 stars
The Other Black Girl – 3 stars
While Justice Sleeps – 3 stars
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World – 3 stars
Klara and the Sun – 2 stars

I also read some books “off the list” and the 5-star choices were:

Between Two Kingdoms
The Less People Know About Us
The Heart’s Invisible Furies

While Justice Sleeps

Stacey Abrams is a hero. And, how could she do all that she has done AND write a bunch of books?! Seemed like reading her newest would be a good plan for the summer. While Justice Sleeps was the last book on my Summer to-read list. It is described: “Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together—excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn—the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases—has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court—a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington. As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth.” (Amazon) I liked this story at first and overall, it was interesting and well-told. I didn’t love it, however. It was too detailed, too hard to follow at points, and didn’t move at a breakneck pace, as I had hoped. So, while I am glad I read it, it didn’t do it for me.

Think Again

Those of you who are familiar with my blog and reading habits might recognize that Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant is not the type of book I would choose. And, others who know my profession might guess that it was the summer reading book for school (nothing like finishing it the day before it’s due to be discussed). Well, I have to admit, I don’t love this type of book, I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own, and, I will admit that there are take-aways that I enjoyed and will think about further and in life and work. So, it was worth reading. The best quote is from the second to last page: “…what we need more is a leader who accepts uncertainty, acknowledges mistakes, learns from others, and rethinks plans.” There. You don’t need to read it. Like many of these types of books, you can get most of the content from the prologue and epilogue. The stories interspersed are good, though, and the book is definitely easily digestible and entertaining. Should this be your type of book (Dad, I’m thinking of you), it’s a good read.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Haven’t read such a good one in a really long time and this one is a top pick OF THE YEAR!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was recommended to me earlier in the summer and it became available at the library. It’s a long one, but well worth it. Until I posted this review, I didn’t realize it was written by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one of the first books I blogged about and a wonderful read. “Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.” (Amazon) SO SO SO good. I loved everything about it and wept more than once. LOVE.

The Sanatorium

How do Reece Witherspoon and her team pick so many winners? I can hardly keep pace with all of them and you all know that I read a lot! The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was a good one. “Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel. An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept. Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic. Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .” (Amazon) This was a page-turner and a book to keep you up at night. Like a good thriller? This ones for you!

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur

I enjoyed The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and was excited to find the sequel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur at the library (can I love the library any more than I already do?!). “It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema. Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.” (Amazon) It’s often hard for sequels to live up to the original, but this one was really good – the mystery kept it moving.

Who is Maud Dixon?

Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews is a quick thriller. It has a unique premise and I enjoyed it. “Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — whose true identity is a secret — it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance. The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom — not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night — and no sign of Helen — she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen’s life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym…” (Amazon) Amazing? No, but a solid summer read.

The Cave Dwellers

The Cave Dwellers was written by Christina McDowell, a St. Patrick’s graduate. It’s the story of elite Washingtonians and their children who attend the fictitious St. Peter’s Academy in DC. It centers around the Mansion Murders of a few years ago. Of course I want to be supportive of all our wonderful graduates, but this one was too much for me. It put DC independent schools and their students/families in a terrible light and the focus on a real tragedy didn’t work for me either. Amazon: “They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege. But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question in this unputdownable novel that “combines social satire with moral outrage to offer a masterfully crafted, absorbing read that can simply entertain on one level and provoke reasoned discourse on another” While you might want to read this one if you are from DC, I would give it a pass if I were you.

The Echo Wife

Looking for a very quick, disconcerting, and good read? The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is it. It’s hard to even start with a description of this one. Fortunately, Amazon to the rescue…”Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.” I really enjoyed this book, though it was a bit hard to wrap my head around. Overall, though, it was a nice diversion.

The Dilemma

While looking for library audiobooks to listen to on my morning walks, I discovered another one from my TBR list. The Dilemma by B. A. Paris was a great listen, filled with intrigue. “It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there. Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together. Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love—and give each other a last few hours of happiness?” (Amazon) This was a great listen other than a few themes were repeated too many times. Overall, I enjoyed it and it was a bit different than some others I have read this summer.